Looking Forward in 2007

January 28, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

A goal of 1 million acres in PLOTS is around the corner in 2009

A goal of 1 million acres in PLOTS is around the corner in 2009

I’ve always hesitated when it comes to making predictions, especially regarding hunting, fishing or trapping issues and seasons. However, I am not averse to letting others share their thoughts on what we might expect in 2007.

This week, we take a look ahead at what will likely be significant issues within the fisheries and wildlife divisions of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, with fisheries chief Greg Power and wildlife division chief, Randy Kreil,.
Fisheries Division

Drought – Meteorological indications suggest the drought will not go away in 2007, and in fact may worsen. Because of reduced water levels on many lakes, a severe winter could mean winterkill of fisheries in a number of waters, most notably in southwestern and south central North Dakota. Threats to fisheries brought on by declining water levels may begin expanding north and east.

Sakakawea water levels – The Game and Fish Department has already identified a need for perhaps $1.1 million to extend or relocate boat ramps on Lake Sakakawea alone in 2007. In addition, low lake levels will continue to retard the potential rebound of the rainbow smelt population. If the drought continues, this situation could worsen.

Aquatic Nuisance Species – The Game and Fish Department will continue efforts to control and hopefully eliminate Eurasian water milfoil from Dead Colt Creek Dam in Ransom County, as well as in small portions of the Sheyenne River. In addition, it is hoped new regulations will soon be drafted to provide additional protection from possible future infestation.

Devils Lake – Fishing effort and success has been high in recent years at Devils Lake. Fishing will be closely monitored with creel surveys in 2007, to protect the long-term fishery.

Edmore Coulee/Billings Lake – For the past two years several groups have worked to identify and eliminate possible drainage connections that would allow for carp movement into the Devils Lake watershed during a high water event.  Hopefully, permits will be processed and construction will begin on an earthen berm that would permanently separate the divide where fish movements can occur.

Save Our Lakes program – With pending changes to the federal farm program, it is hoped ongoing federal water quality initiatives will be strengthened. New agricultural programs could mean additional partners for implementing best management practices in watersheds with important fisheries.

Wildlife Division – Conservation Reserve Program re-enollment and extensions will be a major point of emphasis. The Department is looking at the eastern two-thirds of the state, and also parts of the southwest, to tie in re-enrollment and extensions with the Private Land Open to Sportsmen cost share access program. So far more than 500 interested landowners have responded to a recent mailing describing this new effort. This will be a major undertaking; but it is beneficial to hunters and to landowners.

The abundance of deer continues through ND.

The abundance of deer continues through ND.

Conservation Reserve Program

PLOTS — The Game and Fish Department’s target was to have 1 million acres enrolled by 2009. It’s possible we could even reach that goal by 2008, considering that in 1994 we had 26,000 acres in our private lands program. It’s an incredible accomplishment. The challenge will be to maintain that acreage and quality over time. People have come to expect PLOTS opportunities, but we continue to emphasize that the PLOTS program can not provide places for all the hunters, residents and nonresidents, who hunt in North Dakota. It was never intended to do that, the intent was for hunters to continue to work with private landowners for hunting access.

Mountain lions — We’ll move out of the experimental phase and the season will continue to evolve. For the 2007 hunting season, every aspect is on the table for discussion, from the quota, to the time of season, to the method and manner of taking. When we develop hunting seasons, we must adapt with the information that we learn. The Department will have a proposed season framework at the spring advisory board meetings for hunters to see and learn what we’ve planned. Spring advisory board meetings typically take place from late March into mid-April. Then we put this into the small game and furbearer proclamation for the governor’s signature, which is usually mid-summer.

Deer — We’ll continue being aggressive in terms of allocating deer licenses in the north central and northeastern parts of the state, to bring those deer numbers closer to management objectives.

Waterfowl and drought –The Coteau region of central North Dakota, went without significant precipitation in 2005 and 2006 and unless we get excessive snow or spring rains, waterfowl breeding conditions and hunting opportunities will decline. All of central North Dakota was extremely dry in 2006, and because of that we saw a slight 9 percent decrease in nonresident waterfowl hunter numbers. If wetland conditions do not improve, we could have even fewer resident and nonresident waterfowl hunters. We heard at advisory board meetings from hunters and landowners that because of the drought, the areas that did have water experienced a lot of hunting pressure. That complicates things for both hunters and landowners.

Nobody knows exactly what 2007 will hold, but any way you slice it there will be plenty of opportunities to create outdoor memories.


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